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Late For Work 12/14: Webb: ‘Yes, I’m Playing Sunday’

MLB still a ‘big need’ in draft; if Steelers want division, Ben must play; power rankings.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 at 8:53 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Webb: ‘Yes, I’m Playing Sunday’

Lardarius Webb joined John Harbaugh in questioning reports that indicated the starting corner wouldn’t play this Sunday because of a toe injury.

Yes, I’m playing Sunday,” Webb said last night during his “Cover 2″ radio show on 105.7 The FAN, via MASN. “If I don’t play Sunday, it’s going to be something that is holding me back. As of now, I’m planning on playing.”

After reports came out Monday indicating that Webb would miss one to three weeks, Harbaugh responded by saying everyone who played against the Colts is planning to play in San Diego – that includes the Ravens’ top cover corner.

Webb explained that he injured his toe during the third quarter of last Sunday’s win over the Colts, but it wasn’t enough to take him off the field. He nearly played the remainder of the game.

“I’m feeling good, just taking it day-by-day,” said Webb. “We’ve got to take precaution and just take care of a little soreness.”

Webb “made it clear” he was wearing a protective boot, wrote Dan Kolko.

Ravens fans shouldn’t be alarmed if Webb doesn’t practice today, says The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec.

“Obviously, we’ll see how the week goes but I would think that Webb will be held out of practice earlier in the week.”

Middle Linebacker Still A ‘Big Need’ In Draft

The Ravens are 4-0 without All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis.

Backups Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe are both big reasons the defense has succeeded – even dominated – without Lewis. Some have speculated whether McClain will be the heir to the throne.

But former NFL general manager and CSN analyst Charley Casserly believes the Ravens still need to target a middle linebacker.

“I think you’re going to find another middle linebacker. I think it is a big need for them,” said Casserly. “I think with Ellerbe and McClain I think you have two guys in there. Ellerbe I think this is a guy who’s got talent, I think he’s undisciplined. I think McClain is a solid player, not a spectacular player. I think this is a primary need for them going forward.”

Casserly envisions Baltimore using its first-round selection to find Lewis’ replacement.

“The good thing about it, when you’re taking middle linebackers, they usually don’t go high in the draft,” he said. “You got Ray Lewis in the later part of the first [round], they might get a good one in the later part of the first with this year’s junior class.”

Chargers’ Sack Artist ‘Learned How To Play Football’ In Baltimore

Antwan Barnes is the Chargers’ new sack artist.

As he leads his defense with seven of the team’s 22 sacks, he gives credit to the Ravens as the place “I learned how to play football.”

In Baltimore, he said he learned how to be “impenetrable” and how to his control emotions.

Barnes always felt Baltimore was a “special place” to be a linebacker – being able to study, practice and play with Lewis and Terrell Suggs. But his time with them came to an end after three years when the Ravens traded him to the Eagles at the start of the 2010 season. Philadelphia released Barnes a month later, allowing San Diego to quickly sign him.

“As much as Baltimore’s the place to be an NFL linebacker, however, it’s also among the toughest franchises to become a regular,” wrote San Diego Union-Tribune’s Chris Jenkins. “Barnes wasn’t altogether disappointed about the trade, then.”

“As far as my leaving, it was time,” Barnes said. “I didn’t think I was going to get to play if I didn’t leave. I wanted to be a No. 1 guy.”

Now that he’s become the Chargers’ top pass rusher, he will want to show his former mentors that he’s applied what they taught. He’ll be determined to get to quarterback Joe Flacco, even if it takes until the end of the game.

“The connection that’s always on Barnes’ own mind is between him and the opposing quarterback,” wrote Jenkins. “He’s clearly quick on the jump, but also said the sack is a game-long process, starting with the methodical, play-by-play set-up of the offensive tackle across from him. By crunch time, Barnes said, he’s figured out which maneuver will work best and when to spring it.”

If Steelers Want Division, Big Ben Must Play

With a Grade 1 high ankle sprain, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is wearing a walking boot and his status for Monday Night Football against the 49ers is questionable.

Right?

“Only it’s not. He absolutely, positively must play if the Steelers are going to win a game and maybe, just maybe, their division,” wrote CBSSports.com’s Clark Judge.

The columnist believes the Steelers can win their final two games – against St. Louis and Cleveland – without Big Ben. But they can’t be victorious in San Francisco without him.

“The way I see it, Pittsburgh is staring at a one-game season,” wrote Judge. “Win Monday, and it probably runs the table, finishing 13-3. It might win the division, too, gaining a first-round bye and, possibly, home-field advantage. But lose? Well, then they risk ceding the AFC North to archrival Baltimore and entering the playoffs as a wild card.”

Since the Steelers play 24 hours after the Ravens do, they will know the result of the game in San Diego. But win or lose, Pittsburgh will still need to play Roethlisberger – either to force Baltimore to finish perfect or to take the lead in the AFC North.

“That’s a lot of time off between now and the divisional playoffs, and that’s just what a quarterback with a bad ankle needs. Only to make it there, Pittsburgh must somehow, some way, get Roethlisberger through its game with San Francisco,” Judge concluded.

Week 14 Power Rankings

Former Ravens head coach and Fox analyst Brian Billick and NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison are the only two writers below who don’t have the Ravens listed as the second-best team in their rankings. Both believe Baltimore is the third best.

That said, Harrison gave a huge bump to the Ravens this week, sending them from No. 6 to No. 3. Harrison took a lot of heat the last two weeks for putting the Steelers and 49ers ahead of Baltimore, despite head-to-head victories over both. But a victory over the winless Colts, combined with a tight Steelers-Browns matchup and a San Francisco loss, was enough to push the Ravens up.

Below is the Week 14 list, with this week’s and last week’s rankings in parentheses:

ESPN.com (2/2): “Insert LB/DE Terrell Suggs (three sacks against Indy) into the MVP conversation.”

SI.com’s Peter King (2/3): “Terrell Suggs: three sacks, three forced fumbles. The only questions about Suggs and the All-Pro team is wondering if he’ll be classified as an outside linebacker or defensive end. Either way, he’s an All-Pro.”

CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco (2/2): “They are closing in on a division title, which would mean a home playoff game. Joe Flacco has never had one of those.”

FoxSports.com’s Brian Billick (3/3): “It may not have been as dominant as some would have thought, but the Ravens finally stopped playing down to their opponents. There isn’t a defensive player in all of the NFL that is playing as well as Terrell Suggs, and it looks like Ray Lewis is ready to return. The rich get richer in Baltimore.”

ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio (2/2): “Baltimore residents have never been so glad the Colts left.”

NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison (3/6): “The Ravens keep winning. No snarky remarks about beating the Colts not counting as a win here. The Ravens D, particularly Terrell Suggs, was solid if not suffocating. Baltimore is making a play for the top seed, with a road game versus the suddenly resurgent Chargers up next, before an AFC North run of the Ohio teams. That Week 17 matchup in Cincinnati might be one of the more important games of the year. Should be a good one.”

Quick Hits

  • The 49ers (and Ravens) get a welcomed break for the Monday Night Football matchup with James Harrison’s suspension. [ESPN]
  • The stock is up on Ray Rice’s carries.The Ravens have a history of turning to their running back in December, and it’s no different this year,” wrote Jamison Hensley. “In the first nine games of the season, the Ravens running back averaged 15.3 carries. In the last four – all wins – Rice has received 24 carries per game. During this stretch, he has run for 470 yards and scored four touchdowns. Baltimore is 6-0 when Rice gets at least 20 carries and 4-3 when he does not.” [ESPN]
  • In this Q&A, backup running back Ricky Williams chats about his relationship with Ray Rice and his plans for life after football. [The Baltimore Sun]
  • The Chargers are facing the possibility of a second straight blackout, 2,000 tickets short of a sellout for Sunday Night Football.  ”The desire to have a marquee game seen locally should, in theory, be enough to persuade ownership to buy the unsold tickets at 34 cents on the dollar,” wrote Mike Florio. “But if ownership plans to fire coach Norv Turner, and possibly G.M. A.J. Smith, limping into the offseason with a pair of local blackouts could help ensure that the locals will be on board with the changes that could be made.” [ProFootballTalk.com]

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